The Kissinger Experience: American Policy in the Middle East
This book is enough to give criticizing Kissinger a bad name. It repeats and inflates every charge made against him, describing his admitted egotism as “bordering on pathology.” It blames the very inception of the Yom Kippur war on him. It claims that he tried to engineer an Israeli defeat, and that he cheated the Israelis of the victory they achieved despite his efforts against them. It concludes that “the Kissingerian offensive may set back what chances there were for peace in the Middle East by perhaps as much as a generation.” For, as the war died down, Kissinger “raced into the embrace of Sadat.”
A member of the right-wing Likud party told a group of us who went to Israel last February that Kissinger’s rescue of the Egyptian Third Army should rank, among US blunders, with Dulles’s interference in the Suez raid of 1956. That is not strong enough for AlRoy, who finds the 1973 acts far worse than those of 1956: “For while it is true that the Eisenhower-Dulles team saved Nasser from the consequences of military defeat in 1956, it did not go beyond restoration of the status quo ante bellum. Kissinger’s exertions in this case quickly restored to the Arabs all their territorial losses in a war they themselves had started, as well as areas they had not held before the war.”
It is hard to take such total attack very seriously. But the book obviously reflects a strong current in Israeli thinking. There was always some distrust of Kissinger in Jerusalem. Now it is souring toward a fearful obsession with him. Premier Rabin, who once boasted his close ties with “Henry,” recently told his notoriously leaky cabinet that publication of the minutes from Kissinger’s meetings in Israel during his last Middle Eastern shuttle would lead to the American secretary of state’s forced resignation. Rabin’s popularity surged forward when he defied Kissinger during that series of negotiations. A few weeks ago William Buckley, trying to identify himself as a journalist leaving Israel, pulled out a copy of his new book, whose jacket photo shows him standing in Mr. Kissinger’s company—that should do it, he thought. All it did was cause him extra trouble with the security man in charge of Lod airport. The Kissinger photos that stick in Israeli minds are those of him embracing Sadat. It did not help, either, that the book portrayed Buckley as a UN functionary. When he is not joking with Henry Kissinger, he must be meeting with Arafat!
It is understandable that Israelis should feel betrayed. But the praise given this new book by Americans is more startling. John Roche devoted a whole column to the book, saying anyone who wants to understand America’s foreign policy must read it. Tad Szulc, Edward Luttwak, and Eugene Rostow weigh in with equal praise on the book’s jacket. Rostow even calls the book “a…
This is exclusive content for subscribers only.
Try two months of unlimited access to The New York Review for just $1 a month.
Continue reading this article, and thousands more from our complete 55+ year archive, for the low introductory rate of just $1 a month.